There is an old expression; No man knows fear until it comes to him. There is more meaning to this statement than there first appears too.
Let me relate the experience of a man I knew named Mike who was a good friend who often challenged himself mentally and physically. One method he did this was in ‘technical mountain climbing’. After a few years of this he was given his first ‘lead climber’ position.
That meant he was the ‘point man’ and he had to climb the rock face first and put the chocks into the rock to provide the safety rope for the others to follow.
He was on a ledge and had to cross a missing part of that ledge to reach the other side. If he fell it was certain death of course. Mike seemed to me to fancy himself a sort of “hero” type in his own mind and he often had an exaggerated idea of his abilities in many areas, but he was competent in most. Yet he told me that something quite remarkable occurred when he extended his right leg out over the abyss to reach that small ‘foothold’ on the other side of the ledge.
He was surprised to see and feel that his leg was as he put it, “moving up and down like a sewing machine needle’. He was genuinely surprised to see and feel his body involuntarily trembling with fear. A greater knowledge of fear had thus come to him.
One thing I wish to point out here is that while his mind had not yet registered fear as he initially attempted to cross the ledge gap, his body was certainly and dramatically had. And his body was reacting to that fear first. Hence, he had a genuine epiphany here about himself and the nature of true fear as well.
That experience is an “awakening’ and an act of true self-discovery and you certainly do not have to take up technical mountain climbing to experience it ether. It is precisely a part of that self-discovery that we provide the circumstances for our attendants to engage and experience in at our RMCAT training too. You see there does not have to be any real danger of death, we only have to first convince the ‘body’ that there is because the self-aware mind will be partially dragged along with the body every time.
Mike’s self-aware mind had to ‘catch up’ with his body’s message and engage the fear of death too and that occurred when he saw and felt his leg involuntarily ‘moving up and down like sewing machine needle”. It is much the same way at RMCAT Training many times too.
But there is more to the story and it is quite bit enlightening about this physiological/psychological process too.
Mike ultimately, after several minutes of trying and stopping several times crossed the ledge gap and the climb proceeded. He was the lead climber and so he had the climbing team sit on the safety of some large flat rocks to take breather.
He told me the view was beyond magnificent and as he looked back at the ledge he had just crossed he could barely imagine how he had managed to cross it. He told me that he felt a bursting sense of accomplishment; no person could get to the spot they were at now and see that view unless they too faced and conquered the fear of that crossing!
And then, from nowhere and impossibly he heard a voice call out in a heavy British accent:
” I saw old man, would you have a hammer?”
Mike then saw a man with no gear at all but a chalk bag around his waist effortlessly swing past the ledge gap and into view. He then climbed up to Mike’s position totally unassisted and totally without any protection. He behaved as if he were strolling through Garden State Park.
Mike said he was rendered absolutely speechless with disbelief and then man asked him again.
” I say there, a hammer sir, could you spot me a hammer? I saw some rather interesting old pitons there at the ledge, I collect them you see? Need a bloody hammer to take them out”.
Mike gathered his senses about him just barely enough to hand the man his climbing hammer.
‘I thank you, be back in a jiffy” the Englishman said as he merrily returned to the deadly ledge gap and then crawled about the sheer rock face happily extracting the old pitons.
Now think about this please. What was it that made this quirky Englishman so apparently fearless at the same ledge crossing that left Mike’s knee’s shaking and which held up his climbing team for nearly twenty minutes?
Was the Englishman truly fearless, or was he just crazy? Was he so naïve that somehow he felt he could not possibly fall? Had he ever seen anyone else fall to their death? These are all good question which we can’t positively answer with any real certainty either, but perhaps the true answer is a ‘mixed bag’ of a bit of all these things too.
But here is something I can say with certainly here; This was not the fist time that strange ‘Brit’ had been mountain climbing!
Now if you see that truth then you must see that there had to be first time for him too, maybe there was even a ‘shaking knee experience’ many years ago for him like Mike’s when he was on his very first ‘lead climb’ position.
Now some might simply say ” Well, the guy was just so used to it that it did not scare him anymore”. This is true, but these words simplify and truncate a lot of processes here. And I would say almost to the point of obscuring those processes.
Remember, that Mike’s knees shaking and his leg moving like a ‘sewing machine needle’ were autonomic responses to his body perceiving the deadly danger. Hence, this occurred before his “self aware” mind experiencing ‘feelings’ of fear. The physiological autonomic, spastic, non self-awre motor response came first, then came the self-aware cognition of ‘fear”.
How had the British climber then managed to by pass this autonomic response and reach the mental state of apparent ‘fearlessness’ that he had? To say he got used that way by “getting used to it” is true, but this is also far too simple an explanation as well.
His previous climbing experience had provided him with repeated exposures to the adrenal complex dump in the ‘mountain climbing context’ and had thus given him the opportunity to develop adrenal management skills. That is what adrenal stress driven scenario based training does as well.
This is the same type of productive training experience that an airline pilot, or a combat fighter pilot being trained in a flight simulator experiences too. This reliable biochemistry is why simulator training and scenario based training is so very powerfully effective too.
It works on the biochemistry of the individual. Understand too that it is these involuntary, non self-aware adrenal stress driven responses that are the real problem in conflicts of any kind with other human beings too. Those conflicts can be at the office, in personal relationships or wherever.
But developing adrenal management skills are the especially demanded and are the essence of the problem in preparing a person for survival and combat. And authentic simulations and simulators have well proven themselves as a superior training method to any other here.
When we overcome a fear, we are learning to overcome fears. When we recognize the role our non self-aware mind has in affecting one behavior, we have the tool needed to see that otherwise ‘unseen’ process in other behaviors, especially the ones that ‘do not serve out interests’. This is a true key to correcting those behaviors and in all walks of life.
We have already discussed the special qualities and durability of adrenal memoirs. They are at the root of all PTSD of course. And this mechanism is why scenario based, adrenal stress simulation training ‘can’t be forgotten’. The concept of ‘forget’ simply does not apply here.
The response trained under the adrenal stress driven simulation will be the automatic response that occurs when the cues that were present in the simulation appear in the real situation.
For example, a woman is grabbed violently from behind in a poorly lighted area walking to her car. Before she know it her body has side shifted and her open hand has slapped a snapping blow between the legs of the attacker. The action is instantly repeated and continuously and without thought, but only intent as she screams until that attacker releases. Then she turns immediately and strikes him with a very powerful heel of palm carrying her full and articulated body weight under his chin. It is only now that her self-aware mind realizes she is under attack. Now she can use that’ self-aware mind for a fluid decision as to her best tactical option, fight or flight?
But what occurred UP to that point in time (fractions of a second) was not decided on as it was fully automatic. This is because this motor response had been previously programmed into her through adrenal stress driven scenario-based training. That is in an ‘authentic simulation and simulator’ that engaged the adrenal response.
There is and can be more to this type of simulation training which is necessary because of its reliability and power. Once the basic motor responses are programmed into the body then some level of communication has been established with the amygdala (‘frog brain’ which is not self-aware, but is an initiator of gross muscle responses) and the self-aware mind.
This communication between these two brain centers is a primary training goal too. Taken further, this communication can be developed to provide an adrenal initiated but more ‘discriminatory response’. But that demands a portion of the self-aware mind be involved and there lies the challenge.
While it is through the self-aware mind that we have the type of learning or instruction everyone is familiar with, it is another challenge to develop an instantly initiated ‘mental orientation’ with the autonomic survival instinct (amygdala) while engaging a limited set of options held in the self-aware mind. Experience has demonstrated to me however that this is possible to achieve.
After all we can’t have the woman who is grabbed behind by someone ‘meaning her no harm’ (perhaps a careless and unthinking acquaintance) being so immediately and effectively counter attacked as true assailant would be.
Let me say that the necessity of creating this limited set of discrimination options held in the self-aware mind becomes greatly increased when teaching the use of firearms under adrenal stress.
But then when would any rational and decent person use a firearm on another human being except under a high adrenal state? Hence training for ‘fire-control discipline’ is quite essential here. Because no matter what the adrenal response is the only thing you can consistently count on in any real survival situation is that adrenal dump.
That adrenal dump is unfamiliar to most and it freezes up most. It makes them hesitate or flail ineffectually, but it is the great survival edge of the adrenaline conditioned.
We have this biochemical response within us to help keep us alive. But socialization has estranged many of us from these very powerful survival instincts and so instead of assisting us in our survival they can become our single greatest problem.
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